Italian Resistance and what about the Mafia?

Discussion in 'Italy' started by Josh&Historyland, Oct 12, 2014.

  1. I was wondering, you know as you do, if the Mafia had anything to do with the War.
    I've also heard the Italian Resistance doesn't have a particularly good reputation, not in comparison to the French anyway. I know Italy wasn't a conquered territory so perhaps they didn't have as many recruits, but surely they must have given it the old college try?

  2. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day josh& about the mafia,there was rumors of the mafia using there network to help the americans. there was a lot of sabotage taking place on the warfs,it is said the mafia was asked to take care of it,i dont realy know,i would not be a bit suprised,regards bernard85 :phone:
  3. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    just Google mafia ww2 plenty of reading there.
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    When my unit, as part of the 78 Div, first arrived in Sicily we were amused to discover how many of the older generation of Sicilians spoke English with an American Brooklyn type accent.

    We were tp learn that this was because as young men they had emigrated to America but returned from there to retire in Sicily.

    We also learnt that the British Army Intelligence received much help from local Mafia chiefs with regard to the positions of German forces on the island.

  5. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  6. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    Whatever gave you that impression? I suggest you read " Italy's Sorrow" by James Holland - I think it will change your mind (there maybe other books which deal more specifically with the Italian Resistance).

    Whilst the Sicilian campaign may have benefited from Lucky Luciano's mob, the main Italian resistance was Communist, local and disorganised but savage nevertheless. .
  7. Bernard and Ron. This is excellent and very interesting information, thank you very much.

    RCG. I did google it once, but I don't know which sites are reliable, if you know what I mean.

    Wills. Thanks for the links, it helps a long way to finding good sources, I appreciate it.

    I rather got that impression from the time I googled it, hence I ask here for sources and info, Italy's Sorrow sounds good, I shall add it to the list (the never ending list!). All you ever hear about from a layman's point of view (IE outside the circle of those who study and read deeply about the war) is the French.

  8. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Patron Patron

    Hi Josh,

    As supporting evidence of the Italian Resistance (don't know anything about the Mafia I'm afraid!), there were certainly air drops made by RAF Special Duties squadrons based in southern Italy to Italian partisans in 1944/5, both of material and personnel. Although my uncle's squadron, 148, mostly operated over the Balkans he dropped a Jeep and two parachutists into Reggio Emilia on the night of 5/6 April 1945 as part of Operation Tombola. This was an operation which involved both partisans and the SAS; also, the squadron's Lysander flight made a number of insertions and pick-ups of personnel in Northern Italy I believe.

    Other squadrons involved in supply drops may have been more heavily involved in supplying the Italian resistance; I appreciate it's really peripheral to your query but if this was an avenue you wanted to research it would be worth finding which ones they were (I know 37 Sqdn certainly did some of this kind of work), and checking their Operations Record Books, which available from National Archives.

    Cheers, Pat
  9. Mellandry

    Mellandry Member

    The mafia in Sicily may have helped someway the Allies in the landings, but before September 8th, 1943 (when Sicily was already “liberated”) one cannot speak of a Resistance movement in Italy. It came after that date.

    Mostly Communist yes, local yes, disorganized not at all.
    The first Resistance groups in Italy were started in Piemonte by officers of the Royal Army who were left “alone” after the armistice of September 8th, but they were mostly not tied to the Communist Party. After that, the political decisions taken by Communist Party leaders in Rome (still occupied by the Germans) who created, along with Socialists. Christian Democrats, Liberals and other anti-fascist parties who until then had “worked” underground, the CLN (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale – National Committee for Liberation) had a great influence on the movement, considering also lots of failures by the “monarchist” way of doing things.

    In April 1944 there were about 25.000 partisans but just the leaders and the higher cadres were tied to a political party. The “soldiers”, they were normal people or former military who chose to join the “resistance” not only for connection to the ideal, but for other different reasons (hate towards the Germans, the refusal to accept the disaster and the national humiliation, fear of fascist vengeances, a mean to escape capture or deportation, and adventure, too). Many (m-a-n-y) former Royal Army officers had a great hatred towards the Germans and the fascist regime, following the disaster of campaign in Russia that caused so many losses to the Italian Army
    There were Communist groups (Brigate Garibaldi), more than 500 formations at the end of the war, led by communists (about 50% of Italian partisans), they wore a red scarf. They were organized in squads, batallions, brigades, divisions, and territorial commands.
    Socialist groups (Brigate Matteotti – from the name of an Italian socialist parlamentarian murdered by fascists in the ‘20s), Brigate Giustizia e Libertà (Justice and Liberty) laic and democratic, 25% of Italian partisans, organized in divisions and regional commands.
    “Fiamme Verdi” (Green Flames), catholic and led mostly by former Royal Army officers, they wore a green scarf.
    “Brigate Osoppo” in Veneto and Friuli, a mixed group of laics, liberal, socialists and catholics, these partisans had great struggle with communist formations, both Italian and Jugoslavian, often ending in real fights.
    “Badogliani” (Badoglians), formed almost entirely by former soldiers of the Royal Army who had no politicali ideal in particular, but the faith in Badoglio, the Allies and the King (the so-called Realm-of –the-South), they were named this way because they had no ties to the anti-facist political parties.
    Among Italian partisans there were many foreign fighters (GERMANS deserters, too!), former Russian soldiers, escaped from POW camps or from the German Army where they had been recruited mostly by force.
    GAP and SAP squads, groups who operated exclusively in cities and towns, little groups of three-four partisans, they attacked Nazi or Fascist personalities, doing also sabotages in the factories, They were tied to the Brigate Garibaldi.

    In January 1944 the co-ordination of all partisan activity in Italy was delegated to the CLNAI (Comitato Liberazione Nazionale Alta Italia – Upper Italy National Liberation Commitee) in Milan, who led the partisan warfare against the Italian Social Republic and the Germans until the end of the war (note, Milan was liberated by Allied troops in April 1945, they worked almost a year and a half in the yard of the enemy). It was composed by communists, socialists, christian democrats, liberals. It was organized like an “extraordinary government” in Northern Italy, it was able to keep cohesion among all the partisan groups of different political creed, the relationship with the Allies, and made agreements with French and Jugoslavian Resistance.

    In June 1944 the CLNAI decided to create a military unified command in Northern Italy, head of the Corpo Volontari della Libertà (CVL, Liberty Volunteer Corps), gathering all the partisan formations of all colours and ideology, a command that was divided in operative, sabotage, mobilisation and services sections. This happened after very great contrasts among the political forces of CLN.

    In November 1944 the CLNAI and the CVL gained official acknowlwdgement by the Allies, after these last ones got guarantees about the immediate passing of powers in the liberated areas to the Allied authorities, and about the consignment of weapons from the partisans to the Allies, legitimating the Resistance in Northern Italy, assuring fundings and supplying.

    The story of Italian Resistance is too long to be written here. I have taken all the above from the books (in Italian) that I own. In Italy there are a lot of books, memories, studies, histories about Resistance, I don’t think that it can be said for the English language, maybe it is not an interesting/important topic….

    Ciao Enrico
  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Well done Enrico - a very concise account of how the Italians played a good part in their liberation…

  11. Mellandry

    Mellandry Member

    There were so many political plots among the partisan groups, often carried away for many many years after the war ended, by different political parties (still today).
    Maybe the part Italian Resistance played in the liberation of its Country was not so big, from an Allied point of view, but they were able to keep Germans and Italian fascists very very busy in many places....

  12. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    Between June and August 1944 Kesselring estimated that Italian Partisans had killed 5,000 and wounded, missing and captured 30,000 Germans.

    Between 17 and 30 September 1944, there were 280 partisan raids, causing 129 Deaths, wounded 3,661 and captured 8,241.

    The Germans also had to divert front line troops to deal with Partisans - in excess of a Brigade of 16 SS was committed to sweeping up the Stella Rossi (Red Star Group founded by Russian Deserters), based on Monte Sole, leading to the inevitable Massacre of civilian villagers of all ages and sex, on a par with Oradour.
  13. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Italy pre-Armistice was one of the harder targets for SOE/OSS to operate in owing to the efficiency of the Italian Security Forces - post armistice both SOE and OSS carried out many behind the lines missions to support the Italian Resistance, Several Resistance groups had escaped Allied POWs as members. After the Armistice various Italian SF units joined the Allied ranks including MAS Boat Crews, Parachutists etc, who all saw action alongside British and American forces.

    For details of the Clandestine War in Italy see Target Italy by Rod Bailey, Mission Accomplished - SOE & Italy 1943-45 by david Stafford - both are Official Histories, and James Holland's Italy's Sorrow. These are but the tip of the iceberg with many other individual memoirs and other histories available.
  14. Mille Grazie Enrico! Excellent information.
    I was flipping through "Target Italy" By Roderick Bailey, about SOE's efforts to infiltrate Italy, this may go a way to putting the "Secret War" in Italy in the forefront. It has a chapter about "An ideal subversive" orginasiation, the Cosa Nostra. The SOE were quick to attempt to contact the Sicilian Mafia, but ultimately failed to do so, despite trying to ask the American's to put them in touch via their own organisation. It seems that the British were the first to actually attempt to contact them. They had a lack of contacts in Sicily but special operations being what they are, there are no recorded contacts and as such what the Mafia did to aid the invasion is unclear, to me it seems that they were involved in some way but we may never know how much.

    All this info about the Italian Resistance is excellent, and really puts things into perspective for me thanks again!

  15. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    A search indicates this is the right place to add this story from the 'Daily Telgraph', the title and sub-title:
    Citing the relevant sections and added bold for the book:
    Link: Lord Rennell: the unsung British hero who took on the Mafia
    zola1, Pat Atkins and Charley Fortnum like this.
  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Excellent, another biography for my--


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